Education standards are improving in Yorkshire, Ofsted has found, but there are still grave concerns surrounding secondary school provision.
The region has long held a low ranking in the country’s comparison tables, highlighted as one of the worst in the North because of its poor performance.
Now, as the report for 2016 is released, inspectors have said that while great strides are being made at primary level, there is a “notable disparity” between this and secondary provision.
“We need to be cautiously optimistic,” said Cathryn Kirby, Ofsted regional director. “Whilst we are not comparing favourably, we are improving. But there is room for further improvement, particularly in secondary schools.”
There are significant challenges ahead, she said, as while most children get off to a good start performance dwindles as they progress through the system.
“Many children attend a good primary school only to go on to a secondary school that could be better,” she said. “They deserve better.”
East Riding is ranked among the top 20 authorities for early years provision, while further education colleges are also among the best in the country.
But, the report found, one in four pupils are attending schools rated less than good. Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, has warned this gulf in standards is particularly felt at secondary school level. And, while the gap is closing at primary level, 22 per cent of pupils are still attending schools rated poor or inadequate - the highest level in the country.
Literacy levels in Yorkshire and the Humber are also the worst in the country at Key Stage 1, with 22 per cent of Yorkshire pupils failing to meet standards in phonics and reading. And at Key Stage 2, the report found, less than half of pupils are reaching standards set in reading, writing and mathematics, making Yorkshire and the Humber the joint worst performing area nationally.
There is a wide divide between the best and worst performing areas in terms of attainment, with the best areas being York, East Riding and North Yorkshire, compared to Bradford which is one of the poorest nationally.
The authority featured twice on the list of the bottom 10 in the country, out of 152, for having the lowest proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools. Bradford was also highlighted as having the joint lowest levels of pupils achieving expected standards at Key Stage 2 in Yorkshire.
Coun Imran Khan, executive member for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “We want all Bradford pupils to attend a school that is rated as good or better and we are providing challenge and support to schools across the district to achieve this.
“We know there is work to do but today’s Ofsted report shows we are making clear progress. Bradford has seen one of the biggest increases in the proportion of pupils attending good schools in Yorkshire and the North East in the past 12 months – rising nine per cent since last year to 76 per cent. We of course want that figure to continue rising and we are confident that it will.”
Of the 49 schools found to require improvement last year, more than half had improved to good or better, he said.
“Our 2016 results show that Bradford’s schools’ ranking nationally is improving at all levels,” added. “Improving the results and life chances of Bradford’s young people is the district’s top priority.”